It’s been thirty-five years since Magnum P.I., an award-winning television series starring a hunky, mustached, Hawaiian shirt-wearing Tom Selleck, premiered on CBS. Selleck played Thomas Sullivan Magnum, an ex-U.S. Navy Seal turned private eye living on the beautiful island of Oahu where, along with his pals, he solved mysteries, fought crime, and charmed everyone. Though it went off the air in 1988, if you’re in the market for a career change, there’s still a lot you can learn from Thomas Magnum — and it all starts with research. Thanks to the wealth of information readily available on the Internet, it’s easier than ever to dig deep to learn more about prospective employers or prepare for an interview. Don’t show up to an interview unprepared. Even if you’re a perfect fit for the job, not being able to speak knowledgably about the company could get you disqualified. And if you are lucky enough to get a job offer, don’t accept until you’ve learned everything you can about the company, its leaders, its human resources policies, its competitors and its reputation.
Here are some tips for going beyond the job search basics. Whatever your vocation, now is the time to add “Private Eye” to your résumé.
While visiting the company’s website should be a no-brainer, don’t just give it a cursory view. "Everything that a company is proud to display will be on there, including case studies of work, key employees and any awards won," points out CEO, Ruth Spellman
"You'll also get a clear idea of the company's brand by looking at their website. However, rather than being struck by the logo or colour scheme, pay attention to the set of core values that the brand is built on to ensure they are compatible with your own."
The company’s website also provides valuable information "about the products and services offered, how long the company has been in business, basic financial information, where the company has locations and what divisions, departments and subsidiaries the company has," says author and career expert, Hannah Morgan
. And don’t stop there, she adds. A company’s website is "just the tip of the iceberg."
Be a profiler
A company’s leadership speaks volumes about its philosophy, values and culture. Study leaders’ profiles on the website, on social network sites, and on Google to find out about their interests and hobbies, philanthropic activities, and editorial footprints. Where did they go to school? Do you have friends or business associates in common? What do they believe in professionally, socially — even philosophically. This can be fodder for interview banter assuming you keep the discussion within the appropriate limits.
What’s the employer’s reputation in the community and among their customers? Consider an anonymous phone call or email as a prospective client. This will give you insight into the customer experience and how the company handles new business. Are they polite, responsive, competent? How are they excelling and how are they falling short? Where are they headed? Has the company been covered in the media in recent months? Make sure you are up on the latest news – good or bad – impacting your potential employer. You should be aware of awards, honors, acquisitions, financial troubles or lawsuits. Debra Wheatman, a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and Certified Professional Career Coach recommends searching websites such as Google Scholar, the Stanford University Securities Class Action Clearinghouse, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice to find out if a company is engaged in pending litigation. While you’re at it, don’t forget to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the company’s had complaints lodged against it –and to what extent.
Conduct a stakeout
Once you’ve looked at the company you’re applying to, look at their top competitors. How do their services compare? What is their reputation? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Use the same techniques you used to investigate your prospective employer to check out its competitors. Your discoveries will yield insight about how you can best serve your prospective employer –and show tremendous initiative on your part.
Thanks to employer review sites such as Glassdoor, Indeed and Vault, jobseekers can access the opinions of current and former employees. Review sites also provide information on important considerations such as pay scale and benefits, as well as typical interview questions. Since reviews are anonymous, it’s best to take them with a grain of salt, but it can’t hurt to get all perspectives. So get on it, detective. We know you have what it takes to break the case and land the job of your dreams. Just one more piece of advice: Ditch the Hawaiian shirt on interview day.